30 October 2009

The Vampire Diaries S1 E7 "Haunted"

Well, well--it seems "Haunted" makes two decent episodes of The Vampire Diaries in a row. If this keeps up we might actually have a show worth watching.

Spoilers Ahead

Tomorrow is Halloween, so you'll have to forgive the brevity of this episode's review (I mean, we are talking about the high holy day for horror lovers...I've got to prepare). All right, so Vicky is adjusting to her new status as Undead American. Stefan tries to reign her in, help her through the difficult transition, which she--big surprise--finds interminably boring. Damon thinks she should be allowed to unleash a little. Of course she takes off. They eventually catch up with her at the school's Halloween shindig (dressed as--what else?--a vampire, which in this case apparently means goth with fangs). Things are going swimmingly until the blood lust gets out of hand. She bites Jeremy then attacks Elena with intent to kill, before being stopped by a stake to the chest, courtesy of Stefan.

I was not expecting Vicky to get killed so soon. Not sure how I feel about that, considering that I only just started liking the girl. But it's nice to see that Stefan can succeed where Damon has failed.

Speaking of Damon, he at least has sense enough to want to investigate what the vampire-hunters cabal (aka the Founders Council) is up to, and how they got hold of the vampire-detecting compass (aka the Gilbert watch). Between a little eavesdropping and some flirting with the mayor's drunk wife he finds out that Zack was in on it (and was getting ready to provide the cabal with fresh vervain), that they think there's only one vampire, and that they held the Founders' Ball a few weeks back to weed out suspects based on whether they arrived before or after dark (they clearly have no clue about Damon and Stefan's rings).

Damon also rediscovers his Very Important Crystal when he finds Bonnie wearing it as part of her costume (Caroline makes her dress up as a witch. I think it's supposed to be ironic). When he reaches out to take it back, he ends up getting burned. He's shocked and Bonnie is dismayed as she runs home to her grandma to ask what that was all about. Turns out the crystal is a family heirloom that used to belong to Bonnie's very great grandma, Emily Bennett, an extremely powerful witch and, oh yeah, Katherine's slave/servant/companion (she's never introduced, but it was the South in 1864).

Meanwhile, Stefan, Elayna, and especially Jeremy are dealing with the aftermath of Vicky's untimely demise. Jeremy is heartbroken in the way that only someone who keeps losing the people he loves can be. Elayna asks Stefan to compel (hypnotize) him so that he won't remember, but Stefan--being a weaker, animal-blood-drinking vampire--tells her he might not be able to do it successfully. Suddenly Damon appears and offers to do it "if that's what you [Elayna] want." She does, so he does; making Jeremy believe that Vicky left town, that she's okay, and that he knows it's for the best. Elayna muses to Stefan that she too wishes she could be made to forget, but then she can't because she doesn't want to lose the way she feels about him. Then she runs inside and shuts the door.

Damon is proving to be an increasingly interesting character. He takes all kinds of abuse from Elena (insults, blame, a slap to the face) and then he ends up showing her kindness instead of, oh, I don't know--tearing her head off. He doesn't even take advantage of the situation when she's bleeding from the neck (from Vicky's attack) and chooses that moment to tell him off and hit him. Why? It is just because she looks so much like Katherine or is there something else going on? He also shows remarkable restraint with Tyler at the beginning of the episode. Is it because Vicky begs him not to hurt him, or is Damon starting to consider the consequences of killing indiscriminately? Or maybe the writers just realized Damon's already more popular than Stefan (or soon will be) and are trying to find a way to humanize him. It's not like you can have a murderous fiend as the hero of the piece--there's got to be some kind of redemption (but there'd better not be any storylines involving behaviour-modifying chips or the return of his soul. Just saying). Whatever it is I'm starting to really like Damon. He's not exactly at the level of Spike or Bill (hell, he's not even at the level of Drusilla), but he's getting there. Slowly.

As for Elayna, her responses to everything happening were actually reasonable this episode, and whining was thankfully kept to a minimum. She also exhibits a remarkable level of bravery around Damon, considering she knows exactly what he's capable of--not to mention that he's twice made threatening comments about killing her. Is this character stupid or does she know something we don't? I guess that remains to be seen.

I was also glad to see that Caroline was barely in "Haunted." I think her absence contributed in a major way to the last two episodes being so much more watchable. Let's hope that she, like the titular diaries of the show, slowly fades away to non-existence. I was originally concerned that the loss of the diaries would deprive the show of its one distinguishing feature, but as The Vampire Diaries has progressed and the diaries have slowly disappeared (they weren't in the last episode at all), it's pretty obvious they didn't add anything worthwhile to the show. It's good to see that the producers at least know enough to erase the annoying elements. There's hope in TV land!

One last comment on "Haunted": everyone looks really good in this episode. Kudos to the makeup and wardrobe people; they're clearly doing something right.

And on an unrelated--but cool--note, viewers watching The Vampire Diaries on the Canadian channel CTV got treated to a nifty commercial for Tru Blood (actually for True Blood, soon to be airing on Space)! When a vampire crashes your redneck camp-out, hand him a bottle of Tru Blood and invite him to join you for a drink. Tru Blood: Suck it Up! Nice.

The Vampire Diaries started off so-so, degenerated quickly, and now seems to be on an upward trajectory. It's crazy, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing where they go next. Even if it heads back downhill, at least we got to see a couple of enjoyable episodes. That's more than can be said about a lot of other shows.

Fang Files

Physical Appearance: Dark, red-rimmed eyes. Dark veins on face. Dead vampires look like dead humans (no dust or pools of blood--just a body), although they retain the veins and fangs.

Strengths: Ability to "compel" (or hypnotize) humans. Super speed, super strength. Caffeine (see Mythology). Special rings allow them to go out during the day.

Weaknesses: Vervain, sunlight, stakes, witch-empowered crystals.

Mythology: A new vampire has to face overwhelming hunger (symptoms of which include head and stomach pain and a short temper); blood lust is a potentially serious side effect (and crowds just make control even more difficult to maintain). While a new vampire is transitioning, their body isn't quite aware yet that it's dead. Emotions are also one big jumble during the transition--the new vampire has a difficult time separating feelings. Animal blood isn't as potent as human blood; vampires who feed on animal blood are weaker. Caffeine circulates through a vampire's bloodstream, staving off the ever-present cold and making them feel warm to the touch. A vampire needs to be invited in to a private residence.

Sound Bites

Elayna: If you wanted me dead, I'd be dead.
Damon: Yes, you would.
Elayna: But I'm not.
Damon: Yet.

Grandma: (re: magic) It's not meant to be fun. It's real and it's serious, and you must understand it before you practise it.

Vicky: Why did you do this to me?
Damon: I was...bored.

Damon: (after he teaches Vicky about vampire speed and she then runs off) Uh...my bad.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 7 "Haunted." Written by Andrew Kreisberg. Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson. From The CW.

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